$1B ‘LEAF’ Coalition is a Game-Changer in Fight to Save Tropical Forests, Support Indigenous Communities, and Meet Paris Climate Goals

EDF statement from Nathaniel Keohane, Senior Vice President, Climate

April 22, 2021
Raul Arce-Contreras, +1 (240) 480-1545, rcontreras@edf.org

At the Leaders Summit on Climate today, three governments and nine leading companies announced a groundbreaking coalition to mobilize at least $1 billion this year for large-scale forest protection and sustainable development, which is designed to benefit Indigenous peoples and forest communities. Known as LEAF, for “Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance,” the global initiative represents by far the single largest private-sector investment to protect tropical forests. The first-moving participants include Airbnb, Amazon, Bayer, Boston Consulting Group, GlaxoSmithKline, McKinsey & Company, Nestle, Salesforce, and Unilever, as well as the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway. More participants are expected to join in coming months. The results-based financing model used in LEAF builds on work by Environmental Defense Fund over two decades, in collaboration with Indigenous communities, forest peoples, Brazilian and U.S. NGOs, and other partners, to protect the Amazon and tropical forests globally. 
“The LEAF Coalition is a game-changer in the fight to save tropical forests — a new model for catalyzing finance, at a scale that is truly up to the challenge. Forests are vital to meeting the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. They sustain the livelihoods and traditions of Indigenous  peoples and forest communities. And they provide myriad other benefits, housing wondrous biodiversity and helping to regulate weather patterns on continental scales. 

“As Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Executive Director of Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education) said: ‘The power of this Coalition is the example it sets, in particular for companies, whose participation is needed to mobilize the funding needed to protect tropical forests. The LEAF Coalition sets a high standard for how companies can supplement deep cuts in their own emissions by investing in additional emission reductions from tropical and subtropical forests and also by ensuring that the rights of indigenous peoples who have and who continue to protect these forests are respected and fulfilled. These emissions reductions are not a substitute – but come in addition to – deep cuts in emissions from their own value chains in line with science-based reduction targets.’

“Tropical and subtropical countries have proven it’s possible to protect forests and grow their economies. What they need now is investment at scale to support truly sustainable development, to protect against illegal land clearing, and to benefit the Indigenous peoples and traditional communities who steward the forest.

“The companies participating are committing to reduce emissions from their own operations and supply chains in line with what the science demands. Leadership on climate must also mean companies working with partners to address their local impacts on air and water pollution that disproportionately harms the health of marginalized communities. What LEAF offers companies is the opportunity to do even more: to contribute to global emissions reductions above and beyond what they can achieve on their own, by protecting tropical and subtropical forests.

“This announcement is just the tip of the iceberg. Going forward, the new model of forest finance being pioneered by LEAF could channel tens of billions of dollars per year into ensuring sustainable livelihoods for Indigenous peoples and forest communities, advancing sustainable development in forest countries, and protecting global forests on the scale needed to address the climate crisis. 

“LEAF also represents a new step forward in social and environmental integrity. Rigorous social and environmental safeguards are at the core of the TREES standard that will be used to measure and verify emissions reductions. Those safeguards incorporate the input of experts from around the globe and reflect the success of years of Indigenous peoples’ advocacy in the UN climate negotiations for these rights and protections in forest protection policies. 

“The LEAF Coalition comes at a critical juncture. Ending tropical and subtropical forest loss by 2030 is vital to achieving global climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals as well as sustaining the well-being and cultures of Indigenous peoples and other forest communities. We are running out of time, and the fate of the world’s forests — and climate — is in the balance. It’s not a moment too soon to mobilize investment at scale.”

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LEAF will use rigorous criteria set by an independent standard, The REDD+ Environmental Excellence Standard (TREES) established by the Architecture for REDD+ Transactions’ (ART), to ensure emissions reductions are real and verified and that social and environmental safeguards are respected. 

The initiative is being administered by Emergent Forest Finance Accelerator, a non-profit connector of companies that want to buy credits or otherwise finance high-quality tropical forest emissions reductions and the tropical forest jurisdictions that can generate these reductions. EDF, working with partners, helped to establish ART. EDF set up Emergent in 2019, because we saw the need for a new, innovative financing facility that could catalyze transactions for high-quality tropical forest protection credits at scale.  

EDF also partnered with Emergent and the United Nations REDD Programme (UN-REDD) to launch the Green Gigaton Challenge, a global initiative to catalyze funding for one gigaton (billion tons) of high-quality emissions reductions from tropical forests by 2025. Nathaniel Keohane, EDF’s Senior Vice President for Climate, serves on the board of Emergent, and Ruben Lubowski, EDF’s Associate Vice President for Forests and Climate and Chief Natural Resource Economist, is a senior operating advisor for Emergent.

For more information on the LEAF Coalition, visit www.leafcoalition.org.

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